APIDA Center opens in-person for first time ever, called ‘home away from home’

The+APIDA+Center+has+opened+for+the+first+time+on+SDSUs+campus.+The+center+was+able+to+host+over+300+programs+through+their+virtual+platform+last+school+year.

Brittany Cruz-Ferejan

The APIDA Center has opened for the first time on SDSU’s campus. The center was able to host over 300 programs through their virtual platform last school year.

by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran, Contributor

Decades in the making, the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) Center is finally open in person.

The center officially opened during the COVID-19 pandemic last summer and hosted over 300 programs before physically welcoming students to the space. It still needs to be painted and its grand furniture probably will not arrive until next year, but Dr. Virginia Loh-Hagan, director of the center said they are more than ready to serve students. 

“We have a space [APIDA students] can call their own,” Loh-Hagan said. “It’s our own little corner of this large SDSU campus and we are going to find many different ways to uplift and amplify the voices of the APIDA community.”

The APIDA Center is open for all students Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m on the second floor of the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. 

The center is building up to be the home base for all APIDA-focused organizations as well as a safe space for students, Loh-Hagan said.

Last week, they launched regular weekly programming called the “APIDA Center Support Spaces,” led by recently hired program coordinator, Kathleen Dang.

Loh-Hagan said weekly workshops would not have been possible without Dang’s help. 

“It is really heartwarming to be here and be available to students,” Dang said. “I want the students to come here feeling secure.”

Another program offered is the APIDA Leadership, Identity, Scholarship, and Togetherness (A-LIST) university seminar, offered only to first-year students, is meant to reclaim the model minority myth and foster success in more ways than straight A’s. 

The APIDA Center’s ability to host over 300 workshops was through the benefit of a virtual setting. It was hard not to see the students in person, Loh-Hagan said, but the accessibility that Zoom events permitted was one of the things she was grateful for.

Loh-Hagan said she did not have to worry about location, capacity or funding. Speakers were easier to schedule as well because Zoom created access from different parts of the country. Because of this, some programs will still be offered physically and virtually.

“We want these programs to be available to our Imperial Valley friends and community members [as well],” Loh-Hagan said.

Leiana Lepule, a first-year graduate student said the APIDA Center was her home away from home, even though she only lives 30 minutes away. 

“It’s the space I’m most comfortable with being a part of a huge institution that [SDSU] is,” Lepule said. 

Lepule said she created many friends through Zoom workshops provided by the APIDA Center. When she finally met one of them in person while walking out of the center, they both screamed in excitement.

“At one point, these were the people we had the deepest connection with through quarantine because we would see them so often,” Lepule said. “It was really nice just to chat in person about that.”

Lepule highlighted that this center is not just a place for students to gather. It is a place where people can recognize the individual groups of the broad term “APIDA.”

“As big of a group the term encompasses, representation for each group is small,” Lepule said.

Loh-Hagan said she shared the same sentiment. 

“Collectively, we use that description [APIDA] as a political strategy,” Loh-Hagan said. “So it’s a way to build a pan-ethnic coalition, but we also want to recognize that it’s not a description or an umbrella term because our experiences are so different.”

Lepule said she eventually wants the center to connect with other APIDA organizations outside of SDSU to create a bigger community support system.

“It’s a building block for something so much bigger,” Lepule said. “Hopefully it will happen in our lifetime.”

For the time being, Loh-Hagan said the life that happens at the APIDA Center gives her hope.

“We are like a nest,” Loh-Hagan said. “Come here when you need us, when you need this space and when you need a community. Also go fly off and do your thing, but know that we are always here. Come back.”

 

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